Michigan came out of the timeout up by eight over Iowa. With the massive lead that it had built up over the first 13 minutes of the game dwindling, it needed a momentum changer.
Michelle Sidor caught a pass at the 3-point line, her space disappearing as a defender sprinted toward her, briefly thought of a shot — and passed.
The freshman guard’s decision to give up an open look is the culmination of a month-long onslaught of missed shots and diminished playing time. She’s no longer the first player off the bench, or even the second. Her last points came in a Jan. 12 loss to No. 17 Maryland, where she hit a single 3-pointer.
Her first Big Ten season has taken its toll.
Sidor offers something that can make this team go from good to great: the 3-pointer. Whether it’s Sidor, junior forward Hailey Brown or sophomore guard Amy Dilk, Michigan’s offense is nearly unstoppable when it gets an outside threat. Its dismantlings of Penn State and Michigan State show how when its offense diversifies, the sky is the limit.
“A lot of times people try to pack the paint on us,” sophomore forward Naz Hillmon said. “But when we have the shooters that we have, and they’re on and they’re hot, it’s really hard to pack the paint. You have to get out to those shooters, and then when you do that, they kick it back in.”
Coming into the season, Sidor’s shooting ability was highly touted and she’s shown she’s an impact player in spurts, with 16 points against Morgan State and seven against Syracuse.
Then she started missing. She’d rush her shooting motion, shots bounced off the rim and her defense — still not developed — was a liability.
Against the Hawkeyes, one of the last players off the bench and her main weapon missing, Sidor came onto the court. And she passed, when she may not have earlier this year.
Five seconds later, standing in the same spot and no defenders around her, she received another pass. Iowa’s Makenzie Meyer didn’t close out and Sidor launched a 3-pointer, barely any pressure in her face.
She nailed it, the bench celebrating as she ran back to play defense.
The next possession, the Hawkeyes were forced to respect her shot and when she got the ball, she drew out two defenders from the paint. Sidor found Hillmon in the vacated space, getting an assist.
On Sunday, Sidor was the sparkplug Michigan needed her to be all season. In just over a minute of play, she contributed five points. And she wasn’t done.
For a third-straight possession, the offense ran through Sidor. She gathered a pass on the opposite side of the arc from her first possession, but this time she didn’t need an open look to launch a shot.
Her confidence — the biggest weapon in the arsenal of a shooter — was back. She was back.
That’s why Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico pumped her fists across the court, why the bench celebrated a second quarter 3-pointer like a buzzer beater. Why, when a stoppage of play occurred seconds later, chests were thumped in Sidor’s direction and everyone patted her on the back.
“She was due to hit a couple shots,” sophomore guard Amy Dilk said. “And once you see that first shot go in, you keep shooting, and she found two really good looks, and that really put us over the edge of that close score.”
Freshman year is hard, and while Sidor has struggled to make an impact of late, there’s a reason Barnes Arico compared her to Katelynn Flaherty before the season began. Sidor is a shooter, just like Flaherty, and even the program’s best-ever player struggled her freshman year. Perhaps all Sidor needed was a boost of confidence to get her season back on track, and she got that bout of confidence Sunday.